Artist-Scientists of the Future

by Eric Magrane

Art helps me to understand what happened in the past so we don’t make the same mistakes. – Valentino

Where have we been, where are we now, and where are we going?

These are big questions that call for both artistic and scientific ways of knowing. In a broad sense, both art and science are about how we relate with time and space.

This is something that struck me at a recent opening of an art exhibit of work by artist-scientists. These artist-scientists are fourth graders at Manzo Elementary School here in Tucson, known as the greenest elementary school on the planet.

It is important to connect the past, present, and future because in the past we learn from our mistakes. In the future, we will learn to make use of our resources, for example, using a bike instead of a car that doesn’t create CO2. – Layla

The exhibit, at Biosphere 2 (B2), grew out of collaborations between Manzo, the UA School of Geography and Development, and B2. “Collaboration and dedication were the magic words here,” said Regina Heitzer-Momaday, B2’s volunteer curator of exhibits.

Michelle Coe, a master’s student in the UA’s School of Geography and Development and NASA space grant fellowship winner, has been working with Manzo students and B2 on “mini-LEOs,” small replicas of the large-scale Landscape Evolution Observatory, B2’s flagship experiment for understanding how Earth’s landscape will respond to climate change. As Joaquin Ruiz, dean of UA’s College of Science, reminded the students at an opening reception for the exhibit, the data the students collect in their project will inform the work at B2.

The LEO project is all about my future or someone else’s. – Clarissa

In conjunction with the science, C. Diane Alvarez, language acquisition specialist at Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), designed an arts component with Ann Gonzalez’ fourth grade ILLP Manzo class. The results of this are featured in the exhibit, which is open until May 21. In addition to visual artwork, a writing journal includes artist-scientist statements and poems from the students. The work speaks for itself, so the rest of this Proximities is going to feature excerpts from those writings. Enjoy.

…in art when I look at a picture I can see the emotion of the people their paintings they use lines to show how they feel and it teaches me how science affects people. – Jasmyne

…everything that I am doing in art and science is related and I know what it means. I feel happy because we get to do something special. – Camila


Turn to cactus

Over very long years   

When CO2 causes a drought

Too Hot

– Kaylee

Also, as people know me as an artist they know me as a scientist. I did a project on climate change and the changes on Earth affect the climate change. – Brenda

Art helped me understand science because of human effects. Art helped me interpret the human affect… Art made me a scientist and an artist. – Adam

Colors help us see the different zones of the world. – Layla

…art helps me understand how plants and animals change with the world.  – Jasmine

I am a scientist and I am an artist also… if I was to draw a flower, I would write in my journal what color it was and what type of flower so that I can put my writing in the drawing like a story. – Xitlali


Plants help the air

Too much of CO2

Keep the balance of CO2

Help air

– Amy

When I paint or do science, I feel like I can do anything. If you want to be a painter or a scientist, you can! – Daedrian


Photo captions:

Climate change expressed in abstract painting.

Painting Georgia O'Keeffe-inspired Sonoran Desert plants on handmade paper made from recycled paper and native plant material.

Creating symbols that relate to CO2 using sandpaper, glue, and colored sand for sand painting.

Photos by Cita Scott.